Just back from an enjoyable weekend at the relays in Kettlewell. We made our various ways to the Yorkshire Dales on Friday, finding out en croute that Angela was pulling out of the Ladies team. Fortunately Naomi’s Mum Sally had come down from Scotland to support, and valiantly agreed to don the hoops. A bit of recceing and interrogation of locals showed us roughly where the navigation leg was going to be – on the flanks of Great Whernside with a long flagged run in. It looked like the navigation might be quite tricky, with rough ground and few features on the upper slopes. This, and a reappraisal of Iain’s likely speed, led us to swap things around a bit in the men’s line up, putting Iain onto the short leg 1 and Mark and Martin onto the navigation leg. The Ladies team re-shuffled to cope with Angela’s absence, giving Sally the last leg.
Saturday dawned glorious with early frost and hanging mist giving way to clear blue skies and autumn colours. Iain and Sharon lined up with nearly 190 others in the village square to start at 10am. Tim Davies led the charge, with Iain comfortable in mid pack. With little racing experience we were all a little nervous of how he would pace the 4.5 miler with such a fast start, but he got it about right and came into the field in 80th place to hand over the Sean and Matthew.
Sharon appeared a few minutes later in 149th place, to set Anne Marie and Emma on their way for the 9 mile leg 2.
This second leg was crucial with two long climbs, a couple of miles of sapping bog, and fast descents on tracks. I was expecting it to take about the same time as a road half marathon. Mathew and Sean picked up 50 places to pull us up to 30th overall, completing the leg in 1:17:37, 19th fastest on the leg. This was a truly impressive performance for two newbies to the sport who have never run in pairs before, especially when you see the talent that was on display in this leg. For example they were only 2 minutes down on Ian Holmes and Andy Peace.
Anne Marie and Emma got round in 01:39:13, also picking up loads of places, and handing over to Naomi and Louise. Anne Marie was one of the many runners finishing leg 2 slathered head to toe in the black stuff, after a bit of spontaneous bog snorkelling.
Mark and Martin ran a strong leg 3, pulling us up another 9 places and posting the 15th fastest time for the course. The navigation didn’t sound that tricky in the bright sunshine, but if the clag had been down it would have been a different race entirely.
Harry has not been doing much running this year, but is always fit and strong from cycling, and did not disappoint with a solid leg 4 performance. Unusually our demon descender let someone past on the descent, but it turned out to be Tom Adams who posted the 8th fastest time for the leg, so no disgrace there!
Our men’s team finished 22nd overall in 03:54:45, a few places down on previous years, but still a strong performance given the strength and depth of the competition. Eryri finished 16th.
For the ladies, Naomi and Louise were spot on with the navigation but found the underfoot conditions hard, finishing in 1:45:01. They were faster than 31 other teams on the leg! They handed over to Sally for the big climb up Great Whernside.
At the tender age of 67 Sally is very much a novice fell runner, though she has won the V60 category many times in the Lakeland Trail races. Leg 4 at the relays was certainly a new challenge though, especially as she had not expected to run, and had done 8 miles a couple of days before. In the event she ran way faster than expected, bringing the team home in 05:23:46, and 156th place (I think 30th ladies team overall).
We all had a good time in the Blue Bell that evening, and I’m looking forward to next year already.
Full results and split times can be found on the sportident web